|Looking Up My Pennsylvania Ancestors|
I started early and was fortunate to have parents who were inte- rested. They helped and encouraged me. The Bells were of Ulster- Scot descent. My father had a chart. So did my mother, who was a Seibert. This traced the line to Wolfersweiler, Saarland. My ancestor's letter of recommendation had been preserved. My son visited the German village. There were still Seiberts living there. I began interviewing and writing to my relatives. I soon became a "pest". I sought Family Bibles, scrap-books, old letters and pic- tures. I looked for family stories. A tradition may contain a grain of truth. Then I discovered libraries with histories and genealogies. I was able to get needed books on Interlibrary Loan. I found it necessary to know local history. I could understand my families better. Of great help were the printed Colonial Records and Pennsylvania Archives. Here are tax, land and Revolutionary War records. They have excellent indexes. I then began going to courthouses looking up deeds, wills, estate records and account papers, orphan's court records, civil suits in the Prothonotary's office. Annul tax records were very helpful. A new name or place found in court records opened doors. Of course, it was necessary to visit cemeteries. Today many have been copied. But I found it best to do my own search. Some of my ancestors could not afford to buy gravestone. The 1798 "Window Tax" (Federal Direct Tax) gave me a description of the houses my ancestors lived in - some good - some not so good. The windows in the better houses were listed. I went to Washington DC and spent many hours looking up census and Revolutionary pension records. Today one does not have to go to Washington. I found much useful information. The federal census is taken every 10 years, beginning in 1790. The pension applications were most helpful. Sometimes I found the page from the family Bible. I then went to Harrisburg to look up land records, applications, warrants, surveys, patents. By comparing the surveys with modern aerial maps, I could locate the old family farms. I spent many hours at the Land Office and State Library. If possible, start your library searches at this library. Church records, especially German ones, gave me many names and dates. I used German Reformed, Lutheran and Moravian sources. The Ulster-Scots were always on the move and records are scarce. I wrote to Germany and was able with help to trace my Seiberts to the 1500s. I got a photocopy of the baptismal record of my an- cestor who came to Pennsylvania in 1738. He had to "sign in" when he arrived at Philadelphia. The Ulster-Scots who were just going to a British colony did not have to register. I never located where they lived in the Old Country. I consulted all kinds of maps, county atlases, and Warrant maps. I sometimes found what I needed in unexpected places. Today it is quite different with microfilms, indexes and Internet. But the way I did it was fun. When the genealogical bug hits you, you are done for. My three rules are: Fish with a big net. Never give up. Publish. Raymond Martin Bell
This article was transcribed by Bonnie Hill in March 1998.
|Raymond M. Bell Anthology   Genealogy in Washington Co., PA|
Published with permission of Raymond M. Bell.